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2017 Grants - Darby
Neurobiology of Hallucinations and Delusions in Alzheimer’s Disease
Richard Darby, M.D.
Vanderbilt University Medical Center
2017 Alzheimer’s Association Clinical Fellowship (AACF)
What are the underlying brain changes associated with increased risk for hallucinations and delusions in people with Alzheimer’s disease?
Due to changes in the brain, about two-thirds of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease experience neuropsychiatric symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions. Neuropsychiatric symptoms (NPS) are associated with faster disease progression and can be challenging for both the person with dementia and their caregiver. The underlying brain changes that lead to increased risk for hallucinations and delusions during Alzheimer’s disease are not well understood.
Ryan Darby, M.D., and colleagues have proposed a study to better understand why hallucinations and delusions occur in certain people with Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers will determine if changes in performance on specific psychological tests can help predict which individuals with Alzheimer’s are at higher risk for developing these symptoms. They will also use brain imaging to see if alterations in the size or activity of specific brain regions are evident in individuals with hallucinations and delusions. The researchers will also measure the levels of abnormal tau protein in the brain using PET scans. Tau tangles are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s and the researchers hypothesize that tau build-up in specific brain regions may relate to the occurrence of NPS in Alzheimer’s disease.
The results of these studies could shed new light on the biological underpinnings of neuropsychiatric symptoms in Alzheimer’s disease. A better understanding of these mechanisms could lead to new ways to predict who may be at risk of hallucinations and delusions. Ultimately, this work could inform the development of therapies to prevent or treat these symptoms and improve the quality of life for people with dementia and their caregivers.